I try to keep my phone away when I am engaged with Callie, meal time is a “no phone zone” and I am pretty laser-focused during my work day due to the nature of my job. However, a year ago I started seeing a lot of “buzz” on social media where people have been stepping back from the apps and taking more breaks. Like extended breaks–weeks and months off the app. And I was intrigued–they were sharing that they had been struggling with burnout, imposter syndrome, feeling overwhelmed and came back after their break with a new outlook on life and especially a new outlook on motherhood.
Suddenly the idea of a social media break sounded really good. With a VERY busy life as a working mama, a blossoming career as an author/digital creator, and a marriage I’m investing in daily–at times I don’t know if I’m coming or if I’m going. Life can feel busy and frantic and chaotic, so it seemed like a social media break might be something that could help me quiet the “noise”. I decided to start implementing short social media breaks and took my first full week off a few weeks ago.
The first day I was surprised how often I found myself automatically reaching for my phone and navigating to where my social media apps typically sat on my screen. Waiting for my coffee to brew–picking up my phone. Waiting for my laptop to turn on—picking up my phone. Sitting in my car waiting to pick up Callie—picking up my phone. I think by noon the first day, I had reached for my phone a solid 10 to 15 times which was certainly………concerning.
But by the third day, I found myself replacing that act with other meaningful things, all of which fell into one of three categories: connecting with Callie, connecting with my husband, and connecting with myself. Each night, I would share with my husband how I felt (he doesn’t have any social media!), and it seemed like life felt progressively less stressful as each day without social media passed.
Here are some of our biggest insights:
Much Less Stress
I chalk this up to a few different things, but I felt it immediately on day one. At the end of the first day, I realized I had never felt short or impatient with Callie (or with James for that matter). We didn’t collapse at the end of the day in the normal burnt out we had attributed to life as working parents of a little girl with a disability. We had energy to talk before bed, clean, pack lunches, have a couch date night, or actually read without falling asleep midchapter.
When I think about it, it makes such perfect sense—there are tons of moments throughout the day where I pull out my phones for five minutes when instead, I could just be enjoying the quiet. Moments like that are opportunities for self-care or actual productive time that our phones were distracting us from. In the quiet of the morning, while waiting for the coffee to brew, I decided to just sit and pat the dog while my phone sat untouched. That 5 minutes of calm and relaxation was a perfect way to set me up for a great day. The time I sit in the car pick up line–I scheduled our groceries to be delivered instead of waiting until I was exhausted at the end of the day. The accumulation of those small moments where I can be productive or sneak in some self care adds up to a much less stressed mom at the end of the day.
Taking time to disconnect instead of grabbing my phone meant that I noticed the beautiful, amazing, and sweet things happening IN MY OWN life more often. I think with the invention of social media we tend to fall into a comparison trap–we notice the highly stylized, highly filtered, highlight reel presented by others and wonder why our lives don’t “look” like that. By disconnecting from social media, I noticed when my husband filled up my tank of gas, took out the trash, and left me a sweet note on the counter. And I didn’t have some glossy image on Instagram to compare it to–which made me realize how often we must be taking these small beautiful moments for granted.
I noticed when Callie cleaned out her backpack without me asking her to, when James walked the dog for me the morning I had an early meeting, when they both washed the dishes after I made dinner. We said thank you more. We hugged more. Our house felt more full of love and admiration because we weren’t inadvertently comparing our lives to anything or anyone else.
This one is pretty simple. We fell asleep faster, slept deeper, and slept longer. I usually am pretty good about turning my phone on airplane mode promptly at 8PM each night but by not bombarding my system with constant blue light, bright light, and constant scrolling through the day I saw a marked improvement in my sleep.
I thought I had connection with Callie nailed, but I realized that often when she seemed occupied with homework, her art, or creating some fantastic invention, I was stealing peeks at my phone. Whether briefly or not, it still obviously impacts the level of engagement I have with her. When she wanted to do art, I sat down and talked to her about it–admiring how much she’s improved in the last few years.
I was responsive more quickly because I wasn’t distracted. She wasn’t interrupting me from my social media time, and I felt I was able to head off problems or undue stress because I didn’t have notifications breaking my focus. We spent incredible amounts of time together connecting as a family, and my heart felt full every day.
And I wonder now, after taking a week “off,” how many moments I might have missed in the past. How I might have used that time, connecting with a bunch of people who mean so much less to me than the two people in front of me–the two most important people in my world?